Expat Life

The choice for expat parents: Online home school vs. bricks and mortar school

By Melina Marks

For English-speakers thinking about moving overseas with kids, school is an extremely important factor to consider. If the new destination is a place like England or Ireland, school really shouldn’t be an issue because of language. chl melina logoBut what about a place like Ecuador? There is a wide variety of schools here to choose from, but only a few offer bilingual classes and special attention for non-Spanish-speaking foreign students.

If your kids don’t know Spanish or are intimidated at the idea of having to learn it quickly, online schooling may be the path for you.

To be 100% honest, before moving to Cuenca I was utterly terrified of going to a traditional “bricks and mortar” school. The idea of learning chemistry in Spanish, in a classroom, made me want to cry. I demanded that I be enrolled in an online school so I could study at home, at my own pace. chl online school

I began as a sophomore in the online schooling world and plan to continue it through my senior year, which begins in September.

Before I moved here, I had taken three years of Spanish at my school in the U.S. and, after two years living in Cuenca, my Spanish is much better. So, why do I prefer online school over a traditional, local school?

Because I have a full-time job, my situation is a bit different that it might be for other kids. I enjoy working in my parent’s café, so doing school work on my own schedule works best for me. Yes, I miss going to a real high school and having an established group of friends, but this is an experience I can look forward to when I start college in less than two years.

Many of my Cuenca friends are in college now, but I got to know them when they were still in high school. From what I understand, Colegio Aleman and Santa Ana are both great school for English-speaking kids, if this is the route you choose. Most of my friends attended those two school and encouraged me to attend to. But, as I said, my circumstances and preferences were different.

I babysit a wonderful little seven-year-old girl who goes to a local school, and has picked up Spanish extremely quickly. She’s very smart and her mind is young which, in my opinion, makes it easier to learn and understand a new language. For those of you out there considering moving to Cuenca with young children, there are a number of schools here that will help them work through adjustment and language issues. Younger children tend to adjust and learn faster, making a bilingual school not so scary. If your kids are older and anything like I was, the whole idea could seem like a terrible one. Going to a Spanish-speaking school probably won’t be the easiest thing to convince them to do, even though the language learning process will go much faster in a real school.

I still have a lot to learn, but I wouldn’t take back my choice of an online education. Because of that decision, I have learned how to manage my time better. I am 17 and I hold a full-time job and get my school work done on my time. I still have a social life and try to have as much fun as I can. My childish fears of rejection by peers and inability to learn in a different language kept me from going to a physical school, yet I enjoy my circumstances. A “brick and mortar” school isn’t for everyone, especially living abroad. Online school is a great alternative for any teenager with determination … and a bit of fear.

Melina Marks is a 17-year-old high school student working at her mother’s and stepfather’s café and pasteleria, Popacuchu, located at Edificio Cuatro Rios, Primero de Mayo y Ave. de las Americas in Cuenca, Ecuador.


  • Bill

    Melina, interesting I did not know online high school was even a possibility, of course I am many years removed from high school. My daughter, who lives near the Colesio did her last half of senior year high school at a school in Quito (although she had the credits to graduate by that XMAS. She did not like it at all (although she was fluent in Spanish by then. Her reasons were that most of the subjects were repeat of what she already learned in Vermont HS, and also frankly, wearing a uniform, staying in a single class room in a parochial environment, (her previous school was more of a campus). So after two months she was out, and volunteered at a school for very poor kids as an aide. Now that was an education. I have fairly strong feeling against online college however, I hope you find a campus to attend college is more than just books and study, its meeting people, professors, working with others,,, learning how to think and reason,,, (which you seem to have down just fine), its the whole deal

  • Roy

    Hello Melina, thank you for this helpful article. I hope to be bringing my wife and two daughters there next year. My 11 year old will probably need to do online study to begin with at least. Might I ask which online school you use and do the Education Department have any guidelines/requirements that must be followed? Not too worried about our 6 year old, she seemed to latch on to the Spanish accent the first time she heard it online.

  • Good article .We prefer home schooling as well for many reasons. One thing the author failed to mention is that home schooling is illegal in Ecuador and will likely be enforced this year or next. This means forced vaccinations and forced government curriculum… even in private schools here. The government will and has literally locked all the doors of a given school and vaccinated all children regardless of protest, medical history, or whether or not they already had the vaccine elsewhere. Vaccines have not been about health since the Rockefellers took over the medical industry before most of us were born. Vaccines are about control and profit now. So is public school.

    We sent our son to graduate on-line high school a few years back and loved it so much we are using home schooling for our younger daughter for a year and a half now. She likes it and we love it. Ecuador hates it.

  • Steve

    Hello Melina,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. My own challenge right now is finding a good bilingual school for my Spanish speaking 4 year old child either in Cuenca or Loja, where I currently  live. His mother is from Ecuador and he is surrounded  by Spanish speaking friends and family, but he really has no other person to talk with on a regular basis in English other than me. I am originally from the states and would like for my son to eventually be fully fluent in both Spanish, as well as English.

    I am familiar with the CEDEI program in Cuenca, which seems like a good choice. But would like to explore other options. Any other recommendations would be really appreciated. We would like for him to start a good bilingual preschool in September.

  • Brenda Rudicil

    What home school curriculum did you use? Do they have it for 3rd-4th grade students, too?

  • Brenda Rudicil

    Nick, Where did you get your information about homeschooling being illegal in Cuenca?

  • I love your blog posts! We’re tossing around the idea of bringing our daughter to Cuenca when she’s 16. Could you tell me the name of the online program?

  • Alicia

    I currently have one child in fiscal, one in private and one online. They are all great options, just depends on the kid.
    Fiscal enrollment is July 27-Aug 8th. http://juntos.educacion.gob.ec or go to Colegio Antonio Avila (Remigio Crespo and Galapagos). Curriculum is set by the government so the number of hours your kid gets in Math, Science, etc. is mandated by the government and the same in all schools. Fiscal teachers are paid more than private teachers so they have more experience, but larger class sizes.
    Private: Offer additional focus on religion or languages, etc. Costs range from $75-$350. Uniforms, books, and supplies can be pricey (FYI). Classroom disruptions are more common as they don’t want to discipline and lose paying students (Frequent quote from well-to-do mothers, “My kid would never do that.”). Colegio Aleman Stiehle (taught in German and Spanish), Santana are the two IB schools (you can verify this online at the IB site). Other popular schools are Bell Academy, Asian American School (AA), Colegio Bilingue, etc. Note to Steve below: Do not go to the school you mentioned! Email me if you want mine and other mothers emails that have experience with them. They talk a good game but trust me you will be changing schools in October (ugh)!
    Online school: My child goes to International Connections Academy and will get a diploma from the USA (and associates degree at the same time). Allows you freedom of planning your own schedule. Works well for this child as they have an outside social life (activities) and are good at self-monitoring and independent work. Kids could fall behind if they needed an adult to watch them and make them get their lessons done. This is only one option, as there are many online schools. I’ve never heard of homeschooling being illegal here and I doubt they would enforce it as there are current financial issues with the dept of education, however; as my child is in an accredited school I don’t think they would care.
    Hope this helps others coming to lovely Cuenca!